The breathtaking Amalfi Coast of ItalyWith summer almost here, my girlfriend and I are discussing vacation options. In addition to a few near-by short-term trips already planned, we both want to go somewhere far away and new to us. That led me to thinking more constructively about all of the places that I want to go. I’ve thought about these vacations before, some many times, but never actually put them down in writing. And let’s be honest, with the breadth of places that I want to visit and the scope of some of the trips, it’s going to take a well-thought-through plan to make it happen. I’m not fortunate enough to have an unlimited travel budget or endless vacation days, so I have to be smart in prioritizing my list and combining destinations if possible.
I’m sure this will be an evolving process, but the first step is to list where I want to go and what I want to see. Below is that list, with destinations grouped into potential one to two-week vacations. For completeness I’ve also listed the places that I’ve already visited. After all, you can’t know where to go next unless you understand where you’ve been. Also, the list is of places and not events. I’m sure it would be unique to say, go to the Tour de France, but I don’t think I’d travel for that purpose alone.Travel and AdventureA quick aside. I know many people who are indifferent to travel, or at least travel to distant or foreign destinations. Not me. I find the experience of big vacations to be a great adventure. Thinking about vacations is enjoyable, the planning and anticipation leading up to the trip even more fun, and actually going is great. If you feel the same way, do you ever ask yourself why traveling is so exhilarating? I can give two reasons. First, the world is big and fascinating (I hope readers of this blog know this perspective of mine by now). I read so much in books, magazines, and other writings about the world’s histories and cultures. I see places and events in television, films, and photographs. This stimulates my interest. I want to take the next step and travel to what I read about and see in media; to be surrounded by a new place. On previous vacations I’ve found myself giddy with excitement when I first arrive, so eager to start exploring.
The Cobb at Lyme Regis with the Undercliff in the backgroundA good example: several years ago I vacationed in London but made a special point to take a side trip to Lyme Regis, a small town in Dorset on the English Channel coast. Why go there? Well it was the setting of one of my favorite novels, The French Lieutenant’s Woman, and home to book’s author, the great John Fowles. The book and writer drew me in; I wanted to see it for myself. I went to Fowles’ house – this was a year before his death – though he didn’t like visitors so I merely strolled by, walked out onto the Cobb that features prominently in the 1981 film adaptation, and meandered back in the Undercliff wooded preserve above the town where much of the critical action takes place. It was a very worthwhile and enjoyable trip and subsequent readings of the novel have been enhanced as a result.The second reason, and harder to articulate, is what I term the places the haunt me. I use the term in the context of being captivated not scarred. For whatever reason, some places captured my imagination in a deep and visceral way when I was young. There’s more to this than just travel, and I’ll write broadly about what I mean in a future post, but a good example is Australia. Even since I was very young I wanted to go down under. I did in 2006, and Sydney, Uluru, the Great Barrier Reef, the landscapes, and people were all that I thought they would be.Where are the places you would like to visit and why? What would you like to see and experience in person? What places “haunt” you?
Okay, one more quick aside. I found that when traveling, staying "close to the ground" is the way to go. Interacting with the people, going to local restaurants, bars, shops, observing and interacting in local activities is the best way, maybe the only real way, to experience a place. I'd shy away from the guided tour where you're struck with your traveling group and leave all arrangements up to a tour guide. I have no doubt the experience of travel is richer and more meaningful the fewer the barriers between you and the local places and people.
My Traveling LifeA list of twenty past and future trips. I limited the list to 20 to keep it manageable; I would count myself very successful if I can check-off each of these.[Note that I have excluded the places I’ve visited or want to visit within close proximity of the Mid-Atlantic and Baltimore. The past trips (i.e. New England or New York City) are too numerous to list, and future trips too close to home to be real vacations.]
Sydney is one of the most beautiful cities in the world1. Australia. Sydney, the Outback, Uluru (Ayres Rock), the Great Barrier Reef, Perth, Melbourne, and the sparsely populated western or northern coasts. Status: partially completed in 2006. I want to go back to see Perth, Melbourne, and coastal towns like Broome.
2. Africa. As I’ve written, I want to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, and while I'm there, go on safari to see all the great African animals in their natural habitat. Status: not completed.3. Southern England. London, the English countryside (in summer), Lyme Regis, and the cliffs of Dover. Status: completed in 2004.4. Mediterranean Coast. The French Riviera, Monte Carlo, Barcelona, southern Spain, Rome, the Amalfi Coast, and Greece. Status: not completed.5. Southern California. Los Angeles, San Diego, Malibu, and Santa Barbara. Status: not completed.
I hope I can stay at a place like this in Tahiti6. South Pacific. Tahiti or somewhere similar. Status: not completed.
There seem to be endless things to see in the "City of Light7. Paris. Status: not completed.
8. Hawaii. I want to see a live volcano. Status: not completed.9. Ireland. The people, emerald countryside, Joyce’s Dublin, and of course the beer. Status: completed in 2009.10.Caribbean. Anywhere along the coast, including the Yucatan Peninsula; I’d like one vacation where I do little more than lie in the sun. Is it too much to go to Tahiti and the Caribbean? Status: not completed.11.Northern California. San Francisco and the Bay Area, Marin County, Yosemite. Status: completed in 1998 and 2010.12.South Florida and the Florida Keys. Miami, the Everglades, Key West. Status: partially completed in 2004 and 2010.13.The Nile and Great Pyramids of Giza. Nile River cruise, the Pyramids, Sahara, and the Aswan High Dam. Status: not completed.
The Pyramids can be missed14.Amazon River and Rainforest. Status: not completed.15.Desert Southwest. Phoenix, Tucson, Death Valley, Las Vegas, Palm Springs, northern Mexico. Status: partially completed in 2007 and 2009.16.The Mountain West. Rockies, Great Basin, Great Salt Lake and the Utah salt flats, Monument Valley. Status: completed in 1995 and 2010.
One of India's jewels17.India. Mumbai, New Delhi, the Taj Mahal, Bangalore, the Himalayan foothills (and mountains), and at least one rural village. Status: not completed.18. Seattle and the Pacific Northwest. Status: not completed.19.Panama Canal. (Always the engineer.) Status: not completed.20.Badlands. Badlands of South Dakota and Mount Rushmore. Status: not completed.My list is dominated by "hot" places. I bet others more comfortable with cool locales would have an entirely different list.